Thursday, July 2, 2015

The Rhine River Cruise

By Keith Mahne

There were once extravagant concept designs and plans for a Rhine River Cruise that was to be inside Epcot's Germany Pavilion. Unfortunately, those plans were thrown out immediately following the parks opening in 1982. There are only a few details that exist about the ride today, but one can still get a good idea what the attraction might have looked like using the blueprints and concept art available. Let's take a look at what we know about the never built Rhine River Cruise in today's new article...

German Pavilion concept art

Notice the boat in this close up of the concept art above

The 1982 book Walt Disney's EPCOT provides this brief description of the proposed Rhine River Cruise attraction that was suppose to be inside Germany's Pavilion:

"The future River Ride promises to be as enjoyable as it is informative. An early concept has visitors boarding a "cruise boat" for a simulated ride down the Rhine and other rivers, the trip affording a visual impression in miniature of the cultural heritage of Germany's past and the highlights of its present. Among the detailed models envisioned are scenes in the Black Forest, the Oktoberfest, Heidelberg, the industrial Ruhr Valley . . . the possibilities are limited only by the planners' imaginations."

This arrow shows the planed entrance to the attraction.

Wooden doors can be seen in early photos of the Germany Pavilion which were to be the entrance to the attraction.

The arrow above shows where the entrance to the attraction's queue would have been. Wooden doors would have greeted guests as they entered. Today, the wooden doors have been replaced with a large mural that you can see below. 

Upon entering through the wooden doors, guests would enter a grand foyer, similar to what you use to see inside Maelstrom, that would serve as the queue and loading area. A concept photo below gives us an idea what this might have looked like.

According to Walt Disney Productions' 1976 annual report, the World Showcase attraction was to have featured:

" ... a cruise down Germany's most famous rivers -- the Rhine, the Tauber, the Ruhr and the Isar. Detailed miniatures of famous landmarks will also be seen, including one of the Cologne Cathedral."

A close up of the ride vehicles and boarding area.

Passengers would all be facing one way, towards the right, and be seated on the same side of the ride vehicle. The show scenery would all take place on one side of the attraction and all show scenes would take place directly to the front of the guests leaving nothing besides lighting and dark walls behind them. By doing this, Imagineers ensure that passengers will see exactly what they intend for them to see. Also, this would allow the designers to keep costs down and save on space.

Blueprints for the Rhine River Cruise showing loading area, track and unloading area.

Notice in the blueprints above, the area between the unload and the exit. This area would have featured a view of the restaurant and live entertainment on the Biergarten stage which riders would see upon exiting. Imagine the fantastic views and delicious smells of German food that would have greeted you as you exited your cruise down the Rhine river. The concept art below will give you a good idea...

Rumors have been swirling around for years that the show building for the river cruise had already been built along with the pavilion. I've read on a few forums and blogs that the full show building and trenches for the attraction were built into the foundation in preparation for the attraction. This is absolutely NOT true. If we look at an Epcot aerial photo, we can see that the show building was never built. Take a look...

The area in red represents where the show building would have been if built along with the pavilion.

Although the Rhine River Cruise never made it past the drawing board, one can still imagine the memories that could have been using what we know now. I would be willing to bet that this attraction would have fit perfectly within our thoughts of similar nostalgic rides like Maelstrom or Mexico's boat ride, El Río del Tiempo (The River of Time). I still have hope that with Tom Fitzgerald being the new Creative Director of Epcot, he may decide to dust off the blueprints that are hiding somewhere inside a file cabinet at 1401 Flower St, and give the Germany Pavilion the boat ride it truly deserves...

I hope you enjoyed today's article. For more concept drawings, info and fantastic photos of early EPCOT Center history, I highly suggest you immediately get yourself a copy of the amazingly detailed book titled Walt Disney's EPCOT...Creating the New World of Tomorrow by Richard Beard in the Amazon link below...


Keith Michael Mahne is the owner and editor of Disney Avenue and the host of the Disney Avenue Podcast. He has made countless trips to the Walt Disney World resort since his first trip in 1989 at the age of four. Keith has a strong passion and respect for Walt Disney, the parks and resorts, and the men and women who help create them. He started Disney Avenue as a way to inform and entertain readers and to repay all those who make dreams come true every day.

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